The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Toddlers

I am an official, tried-and-true, Fancy Feast-buying, catnip-doling, purr-addicted, sandpaper lick-loving, CAT-person.

I must also disclose that historically I am NOT a dog-person.

I don’t have anything against dogs other than their tendancy to bury their noses in my crotch without bothering to get to know me first and lick me with their butt-breath and wave their dingleberries near my face.

Other than that I am entirely neutral towards K-9’s and am able to remain my usual objective self on the subject of cat-people vs. dog-people.

The reason I’m bringing up my identity as a staunch cat-person in the first place is the realization I had the other night over a cup of tea with a friend. We were swapping toddler stories when the conversation shifted to how her cat was really more like a dog and how that was not cool with her. We agreed that normal cats are much better than dogs in that they require very little effort beyond the occasional dish of food and an intermittent show of affection, and that dogs are too codependant with the constant feeding, walking, disciplining, slobber-wiping, and dingleberry-picking.

All this talk of toddlers and cats vs. dogs mixed with the hallucinatory tea I was drinking started me to thinking about how much a toddler is just like a puppy and how dog-people just may have a leg up (so to speak) on cat-people when it comes to raising a toddler.

Reason being that dog-people, well, most dog-people, are able to train their dogs to fit into society by setting clear, firm boundaries.

Dog-people do this through simple directives like, “Get down.” “Stay.” “Sit.”

And by saying, “No,” a lot. No when the dog gnaws the crotches out of all your underwear, no when she licks the adhesive off your stamp collection, no when she poops on your gollashes, no when she runs in front of cars.

These training skills are directly transferable to raising a toddler, and I find that as a cat-person, I posses none of these skills.

I remember trying a directive on my cat once in college when she kept curling into the middle my books as I tried to study.

I said something like, “Get off my book, please. I’m trying to learn about the Viking influence on the English lexicon!”

She gazed at me, thoroughly amused, purred, and sprawled further across the pages.

A dog-owner wouldn’t have stood for this, knowing it’d set up a negative behavior pattern in the future. He would have said, “No. Down!” And shoed the beast to the floor.

But as a cat-person, I spent the next five (or maybe sixty) glorious minutes with a ball of fluff on my book, my thoughts a million miles from the text and fingers deep in neck fur.

This fear that raising a toddler is akin to training a dog was confirmed last week when, upon spotting my son pointing at their golden retriever puppy, a couple passing on the walking path stopped to chat with my husband and me.

They offered to let my son pet their puppy, but I knew from the way he nearly lept from his harness at the sight of a moving object his same size that there was no way that was going to happen without a bad ending.

The woman feebly told her puppy to sit, pointed to the ground about as authoritatively as a stink bug, and looked at me apologetically.

The puppy kept running back and forth trying to get to my son.

“Looks like yours listens about a well as mine,” I said.

She laughed in agreement and proceeded to tell me how a lot of the puppy training books she’s read say that training a dog is very similar to having a toddler.

I knew it!  And if books say raising a toddler is like training a puppy, it must be true.

She started explaining more, but her puppy was pulling on his leash and my son was already off on his bike and onto the next thing.

With the nagging suspicions confirmed that my puppy-less life experience thus far could be hindering my ability to raise a toddler, I find myself wishing for the more cat-like infant days when motherhood felt more straight-forward and being a cat-person actually came in handy.

Like during those first three months, the “forth trimester,” when I held that little nugget of sweetness to my chest all day and it was just like snuggling with a kitty. Which I have almost limitless room for in my life.

Seriously, if any cat would allow it, I would cuddle it for as long as it took to finish all four seasons of Girls.

But now that we’re in the turrible-two’s, my cat-whispering skills are irrelevant.

I look back at the total training I had to put into my cats over the years and it amounts to about thirty minutes.

Two minutes here and there when they were kittens, showing them how to dig their paws in a litter box, poop/pee, and bury it. That along with a few sprays of water when they jumped on my desk (which tended to achieve nothing other than a damp, pissed-off cat), and that cat would be good to go for the remainder of its nine lives.

But now I’m finally realizing there is no such thing as cruise control when it comes to toddlerhood or this parenting thing.

It’s hard work, but when my little guy grows up and no one can ever say of him that (past the age of three, fingers crossed) he pooped on any gollashes or gnawed through any dirty underwear or waved his dingleberries in any unsuspecting faces, it will all be worth it.

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